Skip to main content

tv   Democracy Now  LINKTV  June 22, 2012 3:00pm-4:00pm PDT

3:00 pm
06/22/12 06/22/12 [captioning made possible by democracy now!] >> from pacifica, this is "democracy now!" >> i had no physical contact with another human being for 10 of the 18 years i was incarcerated. today i have a hard time being around a group of people for a long, periods of time without feeling too crowded. no one can begin to imagine the psychological effects isolation has on another human being. >> is solitary confinement a form of torture? exonerating death row prisoner anthony graves testifying at this week's senate hearing. >> this is the first ever congressional hearing on solitary confinement.
3:01 pm
it is called many different things. supermax, segregation, isolation among other names. >> the hearing was held by senator dick durbin. today, anthony graves in a rare interview. also joining us, james ridgeway, co-editor of "solitary watch." and a look at dark money in this year's presidential race. >> we have seen the rise of super pacs, the supposedly independent political out its that can raid and spend unlimited amounts of money. mitt romney has a very deep pocketed super pac. >> could secret spending by a small creek of billionaires decide the election? we will talk to andy kroll and monika bauerlein of "mother jones" magazine. all of that and more coming up. this is "democracy now!,", the war and peace report. i'm amy goodman. credit agency moody's has
3:02 pm
downgraded the credit ratings of 15 of the world's biggest banks, saying all are at risk of major losses. the downgraded banks include morgan stanley, citigroup, goldman sachs, bank of america, deutsche bank, credit suisse and jpmorgan chase, which recently lost $3 billion in risky bets. in a statement, moody's executives said the bank's "have significant exposure to the volatility and risk of outsized losses inherent to capital markets activities." wikileaks founder julian assange remains holed up inside the ecuador embassy in london after seeking refuge in a last-ditch bid to avoid extradition to sweden, where he is facing questioning on allegations of sexual assault. on thursday, he met with ecuador's ambassador to britain while ecuadoran president correa said his government continues to review the request. a wikileaks spokesperson said ecuadoran officials have been supportive of julian assange so
3:03 pm
far. >> support of the ambassador and the ecuadorians is putting a strain on the staff. we're grateful for that, but i think it is known the ecuadoran government and president correa is a supporter of wikileaks and what it stands for. the ideals of basic, good journalism, transparency, and information freedom. >> although the swedish government has yet to charge julian assange, he is concerned once he is extradited to sweden, he could then be extradited to the united states. protests continue at the rio plus 20 u.n. conference on sustainable development in brazil. on thursday, civil society delegates staged a walkout of the talks to call for bold action against global warming.
3:04 pm
meanwhile, hundreds of indigenous activists marched through the streets to deliver a petition demanding fairer treatment over land and other rights. >> what we are concerned about is that mother earth is not for sale. mother earth is not a commodity to be traded on the trading system. the trees are not for sale. >> indigenous leader tom gold tooth. speaking to world leaders inside the summit, the bolivian president called on rich western countries to change their attitudes toward the world's ecosystem. >> it is not possible that the so-called 200, 300-year-old civilization is able to destroy the harmonia's life that the indigenous people have lived for 5000 years. this shows the enormous difference between the eastern
3:05 pm
nations, the south countries, and especially the social movement that lives in harmony with other earth. >> to see our coverage of the rio plus 20 summit, go to you can also see our past coverage of the u.n. summits. egyptian activists are gearing up for another day of mass protest today against the ruling military council. islamist and secular groups have called for country wide demonstrations in the aftermath of the council's dissolving of parliament and weakening of presidential authority last week. on thursday, supporters of the muslim brotherhood gathered in tahrir square after former prime minister ahmed shafiq declared victory in the undecided presidential runoff. one protester said the brotherhood candidate, mohamed morsi, will be declared the winner when vote counting is complete.
3:06 pm
>> morsi is the real president. [unintelligible] we have evidence morsi is the president. where is the role for america? we asked america to stand beside, to win the hearts of the egyptian people. >> taliban fighters have ended a 13-hour siege of a lakeside hotel and couple. at least 20 people have been killed. california lawmakers have reached a budget deal with gov. jerry brown that calls for deep cuts to social services to address the state's fiscal woes. it would eliminate a plan that provides health insurance to nearly 100 -- million children
3:07 pm
of low-income families. it would also impose stricter work requirements in shorter time limits for welfare. pushed for more social spending cuts following the legislature's passage of a $92 billion budget last week. california could also see billions of dollars in cuts to schools if the voters fail to pass tax hikes slated for the november ballot. the congress is facing a looming deadline to extend low-interest rates on federally subsidized stafford loans or plunge millions of students into deeper debt. the rates were reduced to 3.4% in 2007, but will double on july 1 for new loans unless congress intervenes. on thursday, president obama urged a group of students visiting the white house to pressure lawmakers. >> you keep this going. don't stop until it is actually done. there is nothing more powerful
3:08 pm
than millions of voices that are calling for change and all of your voices can make a difference. so keep telling congress to do what is right, to get this done. tell them now is not the time to double the interest rates on your stallone's. tell them to double down on investment in a strong and secure middle-class, and that means your education. >> the senate has passed a farm bill that includes $1 trillion in spending over the next decade, both for aid to u.s. farmers and for food stamps to low-income families. the senate bill cuts about $4.5 billion from the food stamp program and the house is expected to seek even deeper cuts. the bill in direct subsidies to its farmers, the expense the crop insurance program which would cost $9 billion annually. environmentalist have hailed the requirement that farmers to receive insurance subsidies must have basic environmental protections in place. but the bill has also come under criticism for failing to tackle large business. in a statement, the group food
3:09 pm
and water watch criticize the measure saying -- the supreme court has ruled a law aimed to reducing sentencing disparities between users of crack cocaine and powder cocaine should apply to those whose cases were pending when the law took effect. the fare sentencing act was passed in 2010 to address a racial gap in prison terms between users of crack cocaine, who tend to more commonly be african-american, and users of powdered cocaine, who are more often white. the law loosened harsh mandatory prison terms imposed in the mid- 1980s that set 1 gram of crack cocaine equal to 100 grams of powdered cocaine. on wednesday, the supreme court ruled in favor of two illinois men who were sentenced to 10- year prison terms for selling crack. while their offenses were committed before the law took effect, both were sentenced
3:10 pm
after it was signed by president obama. video and audio tapes have been released of sanford, florida police officers interrogating george zimmerman about his fatal shooting of the unarmed teenager trayvon martin. the videos include zimmerman reenacting the killing for officers at the murder scene one day after the shooting. in a video of a separate interrogation, zimmerman makes two astounding claims -- the trayvon martin, upon seeing that zimmerman had a gun, did not retreat but instead went ahead and said to zimmerman "you are going to die." surma also claims that after he shot martin at close range, martin looked at him and said, "you got me," listen closely. >> when i shifted, my jacket came up in my shirt came up and exposed my firearm. "you're when he said, th going to die tonight."
3:11 pm
i split a hand on my chest. i just pitched his arm and grabbed my gun and aimed it at him and fired one shot. he kind of sat back and said, "you've got me." "you got it" or something like that critics charged sermon was recently jailed for lying about his finances during his bond hearing. trayvon martin's family has yet to respond directly to the news zimmerman tapes released by his lawyer. thursday, trayvon's parents were featured guests at the national association of black journalists convention in new orleans. trayvon's mother talked about losing her son. >> he was our life. this was my son. this was not just a news story in to market is gone. i have to live with this for the rest of my life. >> mitt romney's presidential campaign is holding a gathering this begin for its top a vigil
3:12 pm
backers. about 300 donors who've given at least $50,000 will convene in park city, utah for two days of meetings with romney and his top aides. romney continues meanwhile to face scrutiny over his time at the helm of the private equity firm bain capital. "the washington post" reports that under romney's leadership, bain invested in a number of companies that specialize in outsourcing u.s. jobs overseas to lower wage countries like china and india. bain's holdings spanned a number of firms that were known as pioneers in the practice of sending jobs to call centers and factories making computer parts abroad. the federal government has auctioned off sections of the gulf of mexico for offshore oil drilling for the first time since the area was hit by the worst offshore oil spill in u.s. history. company submitted $1.7 billion in winning bids for areas off the coast of alabama, louisiana, and mississippi. will company bp reportedly won
3:13 pm
dozens of leases to drill in the region near the site of its historic 2020 -- 2010 spill. environmental kurds tried to block the sale with a lawsuit that was earlier this week, saying the drilling would imperil an already battered ecosystem. and those are some of the headlines. this is "democracy now!,", the war and peace report. i'm amy goodman with juan gonzalez. >> welcome to all our listeners and viewers from around the country and around the world. we begin today's show with a look at solitary confinement. on any given day, tens of thousands of prisoners in the u.s. are held in prolonged isolation for up to 23 hours a day. many are kept in cells no larger than 7 feet by 10 feet, and have their only human contact when a guard slides their meals through a slot in their cell door. these conditions were the subject of a historic congressional hearing on tuesday, called by senator dick durbin, democrat of illinois and
3:14 pm
chair the senate judiciary subcommittee on the constitution, civil rights and human rights. this is how senator durbin began the hearing. >> the united states holds far more prisoners in segregation or solitary confinement than any other democratic nation on earth. the bureau of justice statistics found in 2005, u.s. prisons held 81,622 people in some type of restricted housing. in my home state of illinois, 56% of the prison population has spent time in segregation. if i had one request to my colleagues on this committee, it is to visit a prison. do it frequently. see what it is like. i have done it. most recently, at a federal facility. i have been to our maximum confinement facility in the state of illinois. it is in eyeopener to understand what it means when you start talking about the sentencing
3:15 pm
aspects of america's criminal- justice system. we do not always use solitary confinement at such a high rate, but in the 1980's, things started changing. we began creating supermax prisons designed to hold people in isolation on a massive scale. these supermax prison, just like the crack cocaine sentencing laws, were part of a tough on crime policy that many of us thought made sense at the time. but we know now that solitary confinement is not just use for the worst of the worst. instead, we are seeing an alarming increase in isolation for those who do not really need to be there. and for many, of any hon. groups like immigrants, children, lgbt inmates, supposedly there for their own protection. >> that was senator dick durbin of illinois. while defenders of solitary confinement claim it is needed to control the most violent prisoners, many of the people called to testify at the hearing
3:16 pm
described how it can cause intense suffering and mental illness. among the sioux testified was former texas death row prisoner, anthony graves. >> thank you. my name is anthony graves. i am a death row exonerate #138. i was wrongfully convicted in 1992 in texas. i was kept in solitary confinement. it was some of the worst conditions imaginable with the filth, the food, the total disrespect of human dignity. i lived under the rules of the system that is literally driving man out of their minds. i survived the torture. but i -- but those 18 years i lived in a small eight by 12- foot cage. i had a steel pipe bed.
3:17 pm
very thin plot his mattress and pillow that you could only trait out once a year. i have back problems as a result. i have a steel toilet and sink our connected together. it was positioned in sight of male and female officers. degrading. i had a small shelf i was using for a desk and for writing. there was a very small window at the top of the back wall. in order to see the sky, you have to roll your practic plastic mattress to stand on. i lived behind a steel door that had two small slits in it. the space was replaced with dirty and felt the mesh wire grid the slits or to communicate with officers that are outside your door. there was a slot called a panel and that is how you receive your food. i had to sit on my still bonk
3:18 pm
like a trained dog while the officer's would place the food in the slot. it is no different than we train our pets. the food will leave you dehydrated but are perhaps would find rats feces or small piece of broken glass. when i was sent to the infirmary, i was walking past as a fixed the food. i watched the guy sweating in the food. that was the food they were going to bring me. there is no real medical care. i had no television, no telephone, and most importantly, i had no physical contact with another human being for 10 of the 18 years i was incarcerated. today i have a hard time being around a group of people for long periods of time without feeling too crowded. no one can begin to imagine the
3:19 pm
psychological affects isolation has on another human being. >> that is former tex rowe -- texas' death row prisoner anthony graves testifying tuesday before the first ever senate hearing on solitary confinement. and demolished -- an amount he will join us. his convicted in 1994 along with a man and robert carter, of killing a texas woman, her daughter and four grandchildren. in 2010, graves was fully exonerated after spending 18 years behind bars, the bulk of that time on death row and in solitary confinement. we will talk more about his case later in the broadcast. first, we're joined by veteran journalist james ridgeway, co- editor of solitary watch, a website that tracks solitary confinement and torture in american prisons. he writes regularly for "mother jones" magazine and is a 2012 soros justice fellow, along with his reporting partner, jean
3:20 pm
casella. we welcome you to "democracy now!" start off by talking about the significance of this hearing. >> i don't think anybody ever thought that senator durbin and the other members of that committee would actually get into this subject in such a forceful and direct manner. i mean, the state alone by senator durbin is highly unusual. and for the senate and for the whole congress, grave. american politicians do not like criminals, and there are a lot of people in solitary confinement who obviously are criminals. so to bring this up during an election year, i think it's quite extraordinary. >> james ridgeway, in terms of the response of the federal prison officials who testified as well, your assessment of how they dealt with the questions? >> it was absolutely terrible.
3:21 pm
i mean, commissioner sam mills was unable to say how many mentally ill prisoners there are in the federal prison system. now he is a career corrections officer and almost everybody who deals with this subject will say that perhaps 30% of the prisoners are mentally ill. and the idea that he does not know -- he went further and told senator durbin that he had not made any studies. i mean, i think people want to know what goes on at the bureau of prisons. >> i want to play a clip from tuesday's hearing when democratic senator al franken of minnesota asked charles samuels about the long-term effects of solitary confinement. >> what effect does this have on the mental-health of people who are placed in solitary? if they are released, do they present more of a danger to
3:22 pm
society for having been in solitary? i don't think i will get -- you know, a definitive answer for that. >> if i may, i will respond that it was brought to my attention the most recent the most rigorous study that has been done was completed by the colorado department of corrections as recent as 2009. with their steady, they identified no negative effect on individuals and restricted housing has occurred. >> this is a clip of senator dick durbin questioning the federal bureau of prisons director charles the mills about the number of mental health care providers a the supermax prison in florence, colorado, where there are about 490 prisoners. >> i'm going to zero in to supermax here and ask you to separate those who would handle routine physical issues and those who were charged with stealing with a psychological,
3:23 pm
mental health state of the prisoners, the 490. how many at florence? >> i would have to submit that for the record. >> i am to stand there are two. do you know? that is ok, i'm not going to put you on the spot. >> the numbers you provided me, and what i want to articulate is bureau-wide, we utilize the resources for the staff who are spread out and that was one of the references i made with psychiatry. the on-site staff would fall within the number that you referenced. >> two. >> yes. >> our straw sandals, the director of the federal bureau of prisons. he later suggested there may be nine psychologists in total at the complex. james ridgeway, your response to his answers? >> the fact he does not know, i mean, he is in -- his been a
3:24 pm
career corrections officer for his working life and now head of the bureau of prisons, which is part of the justice department. this is the top executive. it is widely discussed amongst lawyers, judges, everybody in the criminal justice system and here we have the head of the bureau of prisons and he does not know. as a matter of fact, the two people he is talking about, as i recall, are not shrinks. i think he referred to them as mental health professionals, which often times are just staff members who have had a routine training and who stand outside the cell and yell at the prisoner, "how are you doing?" i think it is appalling. >> we will come back to this conversation in a moment. james ridgeway and anthony graves. anthony graves will tell his
3:25 pm
remarkable story and journey from death row, solitary confinement, for almost 18 years, to freedom after being exonerated. stay with us. ♪ [music break] ♪ [music break]
3:26 pm
>> this is "democracy now!,", the war and peace report. i'm amy goodman with juan gonzalez. our guests are james ridgeway, the co-editor of solitary watchdog come. we're also joined by anthony graves, a former texas death row prisoner who testified tuesday at the first ever congressional hearing on solitary confinement in u.s. prisons. he was convicted along with a man named robert carter of killing a texas woman, her daughter, and her four grandchildren. graves was fully exonerated in 2010 after spending 18 years behind bars, the bulk of that time on death row and in solitary confinement.
3:27 pm
he is now an investigator the texas defender service and an active member of the movement to abolish the death penalty. anthony graves, thank you very much for coming to "democracy now!" to talk about your story. in a moment we will talk about the case and he ultimately got exonerated. but for now, if you could describe your time on death row and solitary confinement, and what it meant for you to testify in this first ever hearing in the senate. >> well, first of all, thank you for having me on your show. i am a fan of yours. we listen to your show all the time. my experience was hell. i always likened it to something that you would consider to be your worst nightmare. i had to go through that experience every day for 18.5 years. it was no way to live. >> anthony graves, you described to the members of congress the
3:28 pm
conditions on death row. the other prisoners in solitary -- what did you know about what was going on with them? you graphically have described what happened to some of them and drove them to near madness at times. >> it is the culture down there. what i mean by that, for some reason, we feel we have to punish people. the sentence is not enough. when i was down there, i witnessed guys going insane. i witnessed officers doing things they just felt they had to do, otherwise there would be considered to be soft with the inmates. it is the culture of madness in this -- and designed to drive these guys totally insane. >> i want to play a clip of the testifying at the hearing on tuesday about the self mutilation committed by other
3:29 pm
prisoners. this is a warning to our listeners and to our viewers, this is quite graphic. >> i watched the men literally self mutilate themselves. they would have to be given on razor restriction because if there were given a razor, they would cut their own throat, wherever the cut on their own bodies. to stand there in front of the and cut themselves. this one man i watched a particular do this, they took him to what they call the psychiatric ward. a few days later, he hung himself. all because of the conditions. there's a man sitting on texas death row right now who is housed in solitary confinement, pulled out his eyes and swallowed it. all because of the conditions. solitary confinement dehumanizes us all. >> i would also play a clip from
3:30 pm
tuesday's hearing was senator durbin asked the federal bureau of prisons director charles samuels about federal prisoners held in solitary confinement who engage in self mutilation. >> let me get to some of the more graphic -- i have read stories about federal inmates and inmates in state facilities in isolation who have clearly reached the point where their self-destructive they are maiming themselves, mutilating themselves, doing horrible things to themselves. they are creating an environment within that cell which is awful by any human standard. what happens next and the federal bureau of prisons when someone has reached that extreme in their personal conduct? >> if an individual is exhibiting that type of behavior due to suffering from
3:31 pm
serious psychiatric illness, those individuals are not within our policy, individuals we would keep at the adx or in a restrictive housing. there referred to our psychiatric medical centers for care. we believe that is important. we would never under any situation believe those individuals should be continued to be housed in that type of setting. >> adx is the administrative maximum detention facility in florence, colorado. anthony graves, respond. >> he is speaking about the guidelines written on paper. but in actuality, those things are not practiced. as i say, there's a culture of madness down there. officers feel -- i spoke to one officer and i said, why do treat people the way you do question
3:32 pm
he said, man, because i feel like i'm doing society a favor. that is the kind of attitude they have toward the in may. this whole notion of them following these guidelines on paper, it does not exist. it does not exist. >> i want to bring james ridgeway back into the conversation. you said you believe solitary confinement of prisons is one of the most pressing domestic human-rights problems to which most americans remain largely oblivious. >> well, yes. of their 2.3 million people in prison and at least 80,000 people, probably more, in solitary. that is an awful lot of people. it is not just incidental examples of torture. but i want to add further to what anthony graves said. i have never been a prisoner, but i am writing to a young man now in upstate new york who tried to burn his house down money was 5 years old. he has been in and out of mental
3:33 pm
institutions all his life. he is in his early 20s. he has threatened to kill on self, tried to calm self. he is put in a mental ward i think in attica prison. inside this ward, he continues to try become self. he was put in a solitary cell, so he tried to burn it down. what was the response of the mental ward? they sent him back to the district attorney and real indicted him on arson charges and then sent him back to the same place. now, is it crazy to think that somebody somewhere could step in and stop this? i mean, here is a public defender. this public defender will not even call his family, will not talk to his mother. it is incredible, the situation in state and federal prisons in solitary confinement. it is absolutely out of control.
3:34 pm
obama says there is no torture in america. well, i mean, you just have to go a mile, 3 miles, look around you there is stuff going on. i am not saying all corrections officers are torturers or anything like that. i am just saying there are no standards. the wardens and operate at their whim. this becomes a second sentence. in other words, a judge sentences a guide to three years and he gets inside the prison and the organ or the guard decides the guy's a problem in prison in solitary. he can stay in solitary, like billie blake, for example, a murderer in upstate new york, has been in solitary for 22 years the guys in louisiana, 40 years of solitary confinement. i mean, doesn't a judge look at this and say, well, what is going on here?
3:35 pm
>> attorney stuart andrews also testified, representing a group of south carolina prisoners with serious mental illnesses, many of whom have been kept in solitary confinement. the prisoners filed suit several years ago in south carolina department of corrections alleging violations of the state constitution and seeking adequate mental health services. >> to illustrate some of what we have learned about operations solitary confinement and our state, i want to call your attention to two individuals who the members of our class. the first is the door robinson, 50-year-old man with parents schizophrenia serving a life sentence. his speeches highly disorganized and has a history of bizarre behavior such as drinking his own urine. like many people with schizophrenia, he suffers hallucinations and delusions. he believes at night while he sleeps doctors secretly entered his cell and perform surgery on him. from 1993 through 2005, 12 consecutive years, mr. robinson
3:36 pm
was kept in solitary confinement. >> that is attorney stuart andrews. he said mentally ill prisoners in south carolina are actually twice as likely as others to be in solitary confinement and 2.5 times likely to receive a sentence in solitary that exceeds their projected release date from prison, and over three times as likely to be assigned to an indefinite period of time in solitary confinement. >> yes, i mean, that is par for the course. this guy and talking about, adam, he wrote a letter last week or the week before saying, don't tell my mother, but every night i am cutting into my arm ripped i cut further and further each night proved last night i reach the muzzle. i hope pretty soon to cut deep enough to bleed out.
3:37 pm
he wrote this in a letter to me. i'm saying, hang on, don't do this. you cannot get his public defender on the telephone? i mean, what in the world? this is new york state. >> i want to turn to a former texas death row prisoner anthony graves about his experience in solitary confinement we want to turn to the story, we hear about how he was in prison for 18 years and now to how he was fully exonerated and released from prison in 2010. he was convicted in 1994 of assisting robert carter, a man he barely knew, in the brutal murders of six people. bobbie davis, her 16-year-old daughter nicole, and davis's four grandchildren. the victims were stabbed, bludgeoned, shot to death and their house was set on fire. there's no physical evidence linking graves to the crime and his conviction relied primarily on carter's testimony.
3:38 pm
two weeks before carter was scheduled to be executed in 2000, he provided a statement saying he lied about graves involvement in the crime. he repeated that statement minutes before he was put to death. >> in 2006, an appeals court overturned graves conviction and ordered a new trial, prosecutors had elicited false statements and withheld testimony. after 18 years in prison, most of them on death row, graves was exonerated and reunited with his family. he is now an investigator at the texas defender service and an active member of the movement to abolish the death penalty. can you tell us, anthony graves, when your first jailed how you were accused with the guy who actually committed the crimes, how you knew him and whether he had any hopes initially of being judged not guilty? >> first of all, i would like to
3:39 pm
correct you. i no longer work with the texas defenders service. i have started my own foundation. as hell they brought me into this whole mess -- as they brought me into this whole mess, the actual crime, and the guy showed up at the funeral with bandages all over his body. they assumed he was the person. after the funeral, they followed him home so they could talk to him read when they took him to the dps to talk to him, according to mr. carter, he thought he saw four young men in the jeep coming off the highway and about one of those men was me. so they took him and interrogated him for like 14 hours. according to mr. carter, they threatened him, told him to make
3:40 pm
it look like it was an escape and should amend the head and who cares about a baby killer. but if he named someone, that did the crime with him, they would let him go. so mr. carter feeling this pressure to name someone, named me because he said he just seen me in a jeep. so he thought if he gave them a crazy story, they would not, and arrest me, but will let him go. well, that led to mann losing 18.5 years of my life and to execution dates. i was on death row for 12 and a half years. when i tell people -- i hear everybody tried to give a professional opinion about death row in solitary confinement, but i say you can never, never ever give it accurate unless you actually lived there. it is hell, it is hell, it is held every day. i was there when over 300 men were executed.
3:41 pm
i listened to guys you're happy to be executed instead of living under those conditions. one guy said, "man, i am ready to go. you have to live with this madness tomorrow." he would rather die than live in these in human conditions. what has happened to our country that we're teaching with people like this? we of cross the line when it has come to punishment. a guy gets sentenced at his initial trial, then he gets sentenced while he is down there to punishment and torture. we laugh when we were down there. we hear people talking about other countries human-rights. you're sitting here torturing us. i mean, we have an opportunity to educate people who are incarcerated and move it to positive. yet we are so ingrained in punishment because it is our culture. this is the way we were treated
3:42 pm
before we got any kind of rights in this country. we are still being treated like that now. there's not much difference. this is modern-day slavery. >> anthony graves, there were several people who would have testified that your and your mother's house the night of these brutal murders. why didn't they testify? >> they were threatened by the prosecutor that if they came forward, it was highly likely that would seek an indictment of capital murder. they were at the trial to testify. he threatened them. when my brother testified to whereabouts because he was home and my sister was there, he made it look like my family were liars. he was basically speaking to an all white jury saying, his brother was protecting him. which my brother was just being honest. my brother would not protect a murderer. my brother was trying to tell the truth. the prosecutor manipulated every aspect of the case for a
3:43 pm
conviction. that is how i ended up losing my freedom. i had a prosecutor that was seeking a conviction. it is sad because that is the culture. we let them and they feel this whole notion of being tough on crime is what is 20 keep them in office, so they start taking shortcuts and become -- what is going to keep them in office, so they start taking shortcuts. people are losing our freedom. that is what happened to me. >> day after day, month after month, year to year and solitary, houri able to keep it together and maintain your innocence? and your reaction when you heard the news that he had been exonerated? >> well, there was no magic pill or nothing but i just knew when i got down there, i knew i was not a murderer. i was a father, a son, a brother. i was many things, but i was not a murderer.
3:44 pm
i said to myself, they have taken my freedom but the thing they cannot take for me, and will not give them. they could not take my dignity. they could not take too i was as a man. i was not going to allow them to define me by their labels. i knew i was anthony graves and not a murderer. i was my mother's child. someone they kidnapped and put on death row and tried to murder. i was defiant in not giving something they could not take from me, and i kept me sane. >> 18 years. when you are released, your mom did not know what was your -- your mom did not know. what was your first act when you got out of jail? >> when i was able to talk to my mother on the phone, because i was also in isolation for four years when i got back to the local county jail, but we would talk on the phone. i would always ask what she was cooking. when i was released, she did not know. no one knew. they was asking me, and to your
3:45 pm
mom know? as said, no, she doesn't read their work, call your mom but they put itself on in my face and i did not know anything about a cellphone. 18 years. when i called my mom and she answered the phone and i said, "mom." shias like, "what?" i said, "would issue cooking?" she said,"why?' i said"said because your son is coming home." i was telling her, we can live again. she done my time 18.5 years with me. my children, my siblings, and everyone loved me. this thing has a ripple effect. my family has members of this and also for the rest of their lives. is it worth it? you put a whole family on death
3:46 pm
row. you treated another set of victims. is it worth it? i don't think so. i do not think my mother would think so. my children can never get back their father. i can never raise them. it is not worth it. then on top of that coming your torturing me. then my mother had to come see me. she looks at me and she could not hold me. she knows i'm going through lot, but all she can do is steered her child and pray that some day justice will prevail -- stare at her chou empire that sunday justice will prevail. >> the state of texas, to the ever apologize to you or compensate you for the injustice that was visited on you? >> well, the state compensated me, the chicken never compensate be enough for what you stole from me -- you can never compensate me and for what he stole from me.
3:47 pm
i think those who did apologize to me, but a true apology would be to really sit down and analyze our system and relies with a big, big problem in our system in that we're sentencing men to death row and just prison for crimes they did not commit because we've gotten so of f track. if they're going to be sincere about an apology, that would be the weight to be sincere about it, to really take into consideration our system is definitely broken and we need to reform it, we need to fix it. it is for all of us, not just for those, but for all of us. the minute you start thinking it does not affect you, the next thing you know your neighbor is going to jail for something he did not do. you realize it is right next door to you. when does it come to you next? it is part of us all.
3:48 pm
we all have a part in this. i'm talking from the voters to the judge to the jury. we all have a part in this. if it is going to work, we all have to play our hand. as citizens, we have to hold those we elect accountable. our system has gotten way off track. it threatens all of us. >> anthony graves -- >> i tell people, use your vote as your voice. there are killing in your neighborhood i say to you, stand up and tell these people, "not in my name any more." i want a system that works for all of us. >> anthony graves, thank you for being with us, former texas death row prisoner, testified tuesday the first ever congressional hearing on solitary confinement in u.s. prisons. he was exonerated after 18 years in prison, most of that
3:49 pm
time on death row in solitary confinement. this is "democracy now!,", the war and peace report. i'm amy goodman. when we come back, dark money in the u.s. presidential election. stay with us. ♪ [music break] ♪ [music break]
3:50 pm
>> this is "democracy now!,", the war and peace report. i'm amy goodman with juan gonzalez. >> we turn now to the 2012 presidential election, which is set to become the most expensive race in history. experts project that spending will top a staggering $11 billion, which is more than double the 2008 total.
3:51 pm
it will be the first presidential election since a landmark supreme court decision, citizens united versus federal election commission. the ruling lifted a 63-year-old ban prohibiting corporations, trade associations, and unions from spending unlimited amounts of money on political advocacy. this weekend, the largest donors from the romney campaign are traveling to utah for a three- day retreat with the presumptive republican nominee. the event in the deer valley resort area of park city will bring donors from all of the country to gather. last month the romney campaign out raised their opponents bringing in $16 million more than the obama campaign. the romney campaign in the republican national committee raised $76.8 million while the obama campaign in the national democratic committee brought in $60 million. >> for more we go to washington, with andy kroll. his new cover story is called, "follow the dark money."
3:52 pm
he writes, "this is the state to plan what will be the first presidential election since watergate to be fully privately funded." you go back to the committee to re-elect the president that was richard nixon and the suitcases filled with money that are being taken to the headquarters. you make comparisons for years letter to today. please, take it from there. >> we're back to the era of secret money pouring into our elections. six, seven, eight-figure sums paid back any had insurance magnate who pumped millions and millions into richard nixon's reelection effort print this time around, we had the casino mogul who is not only giving $10 million to mitt romney's super pac, which can take and spend
3:53 pm
unlimited money, you also have sheldon adelson to inject more secretly into karl rove's ounce of political groups. almost more than in the election since that incredible watergate election, if you will. we are back to that era. in some was your back to the era, but it is legal now. instead of corporations and illegally giving money to nixon's reelection effort, we of corporations legally pouring money into the 2012 whether through chamber of commerce or any number of anonymous from groups running out of ups boxes here in the d.c. area. it is one of the darkest eras. >> but to also harkin even farther back in american history to the days of teddy roosevelt, long known as the reformer
3:54 pm
president, but also was one who encouraged and sought out secret campaign contributions for his own presidential runs. >> there is a long bipartisan tradition of politicians on both sides of the aisle, reform and not, going to the biggest donors in the political system and shaking them down for money to stay in office. i mean, this is as american as apple pie. it dates back as far is the 1780's about trading quarts of rum for votes in an election in virginia, for instance. the story of american politics is deeply intertwined with money and always has been, always will be. it is just a matter of, if you think about money as water and regulations as the dam blocking the flood coming into our system, it is just how damaging is that dam?
3:55 pm
how crippled are the laws and regulations that prevent money from just flooding the system? right now the dam is breaking, has holes in it, and money is pouring in in ways we really have not seen since watergate -- you know, some of the experts say we are back to the days of the robber baron, the gilded age were corporations and millionaires and billionaires have a megaphone and dominate sort of the political playing field. >> were also joined by monika bauerlein, the co-editor of " mother jones closed the magazine. you write about citizens united. everyone talks about citizens united, the supreme court decision that unleashed the massive amounts of corporate money allowed to come into these elections, but i don't think many people really understand how it changed things. >> it is really very simple.
3:56 pm
it essentially said, you cannot regulate political money because political money is speech and speech is protected under the first amendment. it is a little schizophrenic. we do regulate what people can give to political campaigns directly, but we can no longer, according to the supreme court, regulate what corporations and people who are behind corporations spent outside of directly giving it to a campaign committee. that is why we hear about super pacs, the shadowy 501 that a pretty much do as they please. they can walk into a congressional district or a judicial campaign or state legislative race or into the wisconsin recall a couple of weeks ago, and just dumped millions of dollars into ads that do not have to disclose who made them or what is behind them are which interests are really being served. and all of this under the banner
3:57 pm
of protecting free speech. >> in terms of the public outrage and the possibilities of being able to pass new reform legislation on money and politics, it seems less likely than ever. t fill the public outrage will channel itself into some kind of assistance on new laws? >> i do, actually. i am an optimist by nature and also believe the american people are a lot savvier than often been credit are being given credit for in politics. it is very difficult at the moment for people to make out the connections between their own lives and this kind of thing we're talking about. it is difficult for people to see they're hurting economically because the political playing field has been tilted by vested interests, but that is possible. other reporters and
3:58 pm
transparency advocates are really working to get some disclosure into the system. once you start seeing the palace this money takes and the results it buys, i think people do make the connection. there's only one thing politicians really are more afraid of them having large sums of money being dumped into the campaign by people they cannot see, and that is having to really answer to the constituencies of every day on something the constituents are really upset about. >> monika bauerlein, and andy kroll but from "mother jones" and we will continue this conversation and post it on monika baue. that is today's show. democracy now! is looking for feedback from people who appreciate the closed captioning. e-mail your comments to or mail them to democracy now! p.o. box 693 new york, new york 10013. [captioning made possible by democracy now!] democracy now!]
3:59 pm


info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on